If your family is anything like mine, you have lots of time-worn traditions. From what meals you eat on which holiday to who sits where at the table, some things are carved in stone. Easter must be a lamb roast; Christmas Eve's dinner is my great-grandmother's French Canadian pork pies; the Great Heil Thanksgiving Compromise means that we stuff the bird with my mother's recipe while we make my husband's grandmother's "dressing" in a casserole dish.
Names, too, are tried and true for the family. My eldest's middle name came from my great-great aunt who I adored. Child number two received the name of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The youngest bears my father's middle name.
There is one tradition in the family, however, that I knew I would never be a part of because of my birth order. I'm the fourth of five and this particular legacy belongs to the first daughter. Coincidentally, each of these first daughters has also been the first child of a first child!
Because my Grandmother Salvucci (born Martel) was French Canadian, her given name was Mary, as were her younger sisters'. Her little brother was Joseph. This was very typical of the time. They were all called by their middle names -- Nana's was Medora. My mother, the first born of the first born, was named Theresa Medora, and my eldest sister was Diana Medora. Her daughter Caitlin Medora was born first as well. When Caitlin started her family, you guessed it, she gave birth first to a girl -- Eleanor Medora.
At this writing, only the last two born are still with us. The first two knew the tragedy of burying a child. My sister, Diana, did not see her child grow to become a mother, as she lost her battle with breast cancer at age 38. I hate saying she lost -- it took her kicking and screaming.
Throughout the joys and the battles, these wonderful women prized their motherhood above all. And so, as Mother's Day approaches, I honor them as best I can. By telling bits and pieces of their stories, I can keep them alive in my memory and introduce them to others.
Most importantly, I can pray for them. I do that daily, of course. But every year, I enroll them, along with my sisters, sister-in-law, and nieces, in our Mother's Day Novena.
Why? Because somewhere in the missions, families and their mothers are living their own traditions. Those women, whose names I do not know, deserve to be honored, too, with help from The Pontifical Mission Societies.
Go to www.propfaithboston.org to enroll and honor the women in your life.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.